Last week, Google announced 1,000 scholarships for Dublin job seekers through a partnership with Coursera. The opportunity this initiative provides to complete a range of short online courses and earn certificates in IT, data analytics, project management and UX design is part of an increasing global trend towards alternative credentials.
These credentials, often referred to as micro-credentials, are claimed by their proponents to more flexible and responsive to current employment needs than traditional university qualifications.
While the currency of these short awards and certificates may not yet rival the value of a full degree, and debate continues over where they fit in the credential ecology, the Madrid Micro-credential Statement arising from last month’s EDEN Conference observed that alternative credentials appear to be the next big thing! There is growing expectancy over the role micro-credentials may play in the future. For instance, a recent global survey of 320 higher education leaders conducted by HolonIQ reports that:
“Over 85% of institutions see alternative and micro-credentials as an important strategy for their future.”
A similar level of expectancy was apparent from participant responses shown below to a poll conducted earlier in the year as part of the course Higher Education 4:0: Certifying your Future.
Given the claims and promises of micro-credentials, it is not surprising that discussions on their role and relationship to traditional macro-credentials are progressing rapidly at national, European, and indeed global levels. Importantly, last year, the European Commission (2020) published a major report proposing a common European-wide definition. However, there are many questions that need to be considered in current discussions, as outlined in the above mentioned Madrid Micro-credential Statement, including:
- What are the problems that micro-credentials are trying to solve?
- Who do micro-credentials serve?
- How do you develop and implement micro-credentials?
- What problems stand in the way of micro-credentials reaching general acceptance?
- Will micro-credentials live up to the promise they offer?
Currently, several members of the NIDL team are busy undertaking a comprehensive review of the international literature on micro-credentials to help answer some of these questions as part of a wider project for the European Commission. While this literature review is intended to inform the current European policy context the pertinent question, however, at an individual or organisational level is…
What do you think?
Whether a learner, educator, employee, employer, institution or policy-maker, you have a stake in shaping the future of further and higher education. And as highlighted in a recently published report by Skillnet Ireland, A Micro-credential Roadmap: Currency, Cohesion and Consistency, micro-credentials will only work as intended to help close skill gaps and increase participation in lifelong learning when everyone comes to the table. As Nic Giolla Mhichíl et al. (2020) write:
“There is a risk of the transformative potential of Micro-credentials being diminished if the full range of stakeholders do not participate actively in discussion” (p.9).
How can you get involved?
The European Commission have launched a public consultation process to collect the views of individuals and stakeholders on a European-wide approach to micro-credentials for life-long learning and employability. This is your opportunity to share your views on the proposed definition and the most important aspects of micro-credentials to you. This consultation process will remain open until 13th July 2021 so don’t miss your opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
On a related note, the International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education has opened an avenue for deeper scholarly discussion and knowledge-sharing through its special issue focusing on micro-credentials. This open access Journal, now ranked 18th out of 263 Education journals in the latest Impact Factor results published last week, is providing an opportunity to consider the “next new normal” for digitally-enhanced and -enabled learning in higher education systems. In particular, the Journal is seeking papers that critically and analytically examine the role of micro-credentials in higher education.
You can read more about this special issue and how to submit a manuscript on the journal website, with a submission deadline of 31st July 2021.
Lastly, please note that the NIDL Micro-credential Observatory provides a comprehensive collection of research, major reports and policy-related literature on micro-credentials. Make sure you take a look at the resources available through this site when preparing your journal submission or response to the public consultation process.